Sunday, June 24, 2012

Keeping It Real

This one might rock the boat.

Until Africa, I was a homeschooling mom.  I loved it.  We were free to study anything and everything.  We were free to talk about gorillas over breakfast and then be so intrigued that we'd go online and watch them on a webcam only to get so excited that we would jump in a car and drive to the zoo to see them... all in the same day---even though gorillas weren't on the lesson plan.   We could study about the ocean and then go down to the beach and discover its wonders for ourselves.  The best part was that when My Man had a day off from work, we were all there to enjoy it with him and take whatever adventure he had for us: forest treks, bike rides, fishing.
Before you get the idea that we lived in wonderland, the reality is that most of our days were spent at a short little table in the school room, poring over books and worksheets.

Some of my friends got it.  Some of my friends didn't.  Some of my family thought it was great. Many of them thought we were a little weird. I've been all right with that.

I love a lot of die hard homeschoolers who think non-homeschoolers just aren't as godly (they don't say it..but they believe it).
I love a lot of "normal" parents who send their kids off to school and think homeschoolers are trying to shelter their kids from the world and are going to end up with wildly intelligent social morons.
My mantra to both was that I am not loyal to homeschooling, I am loyal to JESUS. I would put them in school in an instant if that's how GOD led us.  That's what I told everyone.

I believed that.  I thought I believed that.
I didn't.

When we got to Africa, we began to sense the LORD leading us to place our kids in the local French school.  It was confirmed when My Man declared that it would be so.
I was bothered.  I felt ungodly.  I wrestled and worried and struggled.  There was no way this could be what HE wanted. And yet, I knew that it was.
Over the months in their school GOD worked amazing things.  HE revealed HIMSELF and showed me that HE had positioned my girls there as intercessors.
It was not without opposition.  The enemy turned up the heat, too.  When I finally set my heart at rest in JESUS and the enemy's good religious arguments no longer worked, he tried other ways to discourage....and I began to doubt.

Then one morning Curly girl woke and told me she had just had a very good dream.
She was in her classroom and another student, a boy, approached her and asked her why she was so nice.  She said it was because she belongs to JESUS.  He wanted to know how to belong to JESUS.  She told him. Then she told me that he came to JESUS and then everyone in her class came to JESUS.  They all sat down around a table---it was a special table for making crafts to the LORD she told me.  And everyone was around the table making crafts for the LORD JESUS.  the boy was there and he had written many times all over his paper, "I love the LORD very much. I love the LORD very much" 

Something changed in me when she told me the dream.  I was renewed and clear in my mind.  Of course! This is why we're here. Since before their birth I have prayed that GOD would set my kids apart, that HE would anoint them to go and do and speak whatever HE commands, that HIS word would be in their mouth and would not depart, that all the nations would know that they belong to the LORD. For this and much more I pray for them. I don't care if they are rich or important or successful.  In some ways, I am not even concerned that their lives are necessarily happy.  Not that I want them to be unhappy, of course.  I just want them to know and enjoy JESUS.  I want HIM to have HIS way for them, whatever it means for their future. I want them to profit and prosper in HIS KINGdom even if it leaves them poor and nameless in this one.  I don't know all that GOD is accomplishing for HIS NAME with their lives in that school...but I know that HE is at work.

The seasons are about to change again.  School will soon let out and GOD has led my Man to bring our kids back to homeschool for next year.  
I can't wait!
I am grateful.
Grateful not just that I get to teach them and spend school days tromping the streets of Africa, studying bugs and kissing orphans.
I am grateful that HE made it true!  You know, that thing I used to say...that I am loyal to JESUS and not homeschooling. Now, it IS true!  HE made it true!
HE saw this thing in me that, although well-intentioned, was religious...not holy...and HE purified it.
Talk about school!! I just got schooled by the TEACHER!  Woohoo!

"for HE is rightly instructed, his GOD teaches HIM" Isaiah 28:26

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Some things make no sense.

I have a lot.  a lot.  but I catch myself thinking...and being greedy.
Today Little Aggie and I went for a walk. We passed one of the many hovels near our home.  The man standing in front of it holding a water pot handed Colt the piece of coconut he'd been washing off for himself.

Last week the kids and I watched My Man practice softball.  A couple of little boys wandered by to see.  One of them was wearing girls' shoes.  That's not unusual.  (Shoes are shoes and when you have none, you wear what you can get.) We had a small bag of lollipops that our precious ones in the States had sent to us.  My girls decided to give the bag to the two boys.  Those boys didn't have it but a few minutes before they were unwrapping a lollipop and putting it into Little Aggie's hands.

I am not like that.   

A few weeks ago I walked past a small group of ladies sitting on the ground eating their dinner, a communal bowl of rice.  I smiled.  They asked me to eat with them.  Just like that.

I am greedy...but I don't want to be.

Generosity is beautiful.  Not the tax-break, name on a plaque kind.  I mean the kind that gives when there's not much to give.  More than that...the kind that gives when there's not much to give...and is genuinely happy about it.  No cajoling, no heming and hawing, no forcing yourself to do it because it's right. I mean the kind that doesn't even think about it--it just sees another person and joyfully, without thought, extends a piece of food toward them.

That's good stuff.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A Thousand Words

This picture is about a month old but these last several days it has been bringing me a fresh dose of delight.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pastor Mike

The name Michael means "Who is like GOD". Maybe that's why GOD has called so many of them to be pastors.  I've heard of, met and known a lot of Pastor Mikes.  But I've never met one quite like the one I met yesterday.  
I had heard about him from other people but it didn't prepare me for meeting him.  A friend drove me out to his home which also functions as an orphanage and school.  
He greeted me as I got out of the car.  He was younger than I expected.  He looked even younger than me.  His face was scarred and it looked as though he is probably blind in one of his eyes.  I wondered what kind of trauma he had lived through.  
The building was, like many things in Africa, aged and desperate, but full of life. The building and almost every thing inside it would be considered trash if it were in America.  But this isn't America...this is Africa and nothing is wasted.  
He led me up to his office, which was the size of a large closet. I noticed boxes on the floor that I recognized my Man had used to carry gifts to them last CHRISTmas. Now they were given a new purpose: to store items for the children.  Nothing is wasted.
We sat and spoke for several minutes. He lavished appreciation on us for coming to see them.  I realized they don't get many visitors.  When I told him that my girls and I wanted to help teach there on a regular basis, he was overjoyed.  He told me that the children there are orphans who come from other countries.  The have seen and endured unspeakable, traumatic young lives.  It would be good for them, he said, to have someone else new to come in and show them kindness.  
It was obvious to me that although they lack space and windows and electricity and pretty much everything else you need to have a school,  the one thing they didn't do without was kindness. 
Pastor Mike and his wife run the school with the help of several teachers.  Nine of the children live there with them while the rest of the orphaned students are placed in families, with relatives or others in the area.  He told me they would keep more of them but it costs too much to feed and clothe them all.  He had ten children, he recounted,  but one little girl recently got tired and gave in to her sickness.  He wanted to show me her picture. 
Then, he began to show me the house/school.  We walked out of his office and entered a door on the left.  It was the girls' room.  There were two bunk beds and a full bed.  It was organized and clean....and not one toy.  We went to the boys' room next.  It was the same.  
We descended an open (OSHA nightmare) staircase down to the classrooms.  Some classes meet outside on the porch and some have a small room in the building.  Two share a room that also doubles as a sanctuary on Sunday mornings.  Each class had a blackboard at the front and children sitting in order.  Desks made for one student, served two.  Desks made for two, served three or more.  I stared down at one of the desks and it felt like it seared right into my memory.  It was so worn and rugged it could hardly provide a flat writing surface. I immediately thought, I would have thrown that away.  But nothing is wasted here. 
Every class we entered, no matter the grade, would immediately rise and say together, "Good Morning Visitors. Good Morning Pastor Mike. Good Morning Friends."  
The young Pastor would reply, "Good Morning children, How are you?" 
"We are fine thank you, how are you?"  They replied in unison. 
He introduced my friends and me and told them I was the wife of their visitor at CHRISTmas.  They all remembered and smiled as they made the connection.  That was months ago.  I guess they really haven't had many visitors.  After all, TIA (this is Africa) and who cares about one more war-torn orphan? It's not that the people are cruel. It's just that there are so many.

As we stood in one of the classes I thought I wasn't going to be able to handle it.  I could feel it rising up in my chest.  I knew that an ugly, heaving cry was working its way out of me.  My heart was too full. The children were too beautiful.  The dilapidated building too wonderful.  The scarred pastor too glorious.  

Before I left, he brought his wife and his infant son out to meet me.  Her name was Sarah.  Princess.  I held and cuddled his sweet baby boy and made friends with his wife for several minutes.  I asked if this treasure in my arms was her only child.  No, we have 9 others, she told me.  
Of course she does.  

I think about this orphanage, this gentle, precious man and his classes of children who know safety and love and order.   All of it, all of them would be useless or at least excused from usefulness by this world because of their wounds, their poverty, their lack.  But GOD has made something wonderful and rich and beautiful out of all of them. 

after all--He's GOD and nothing is wasted.